By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
Americans have grown accustomed to nori in its drab olive form. But the restaurant's white seaweed salad, tossed in mirin, jumps on the palate. Rubbery yet somehow frail, brightened by cucumber and carrot, it presents in one dish the range of texture, flavor and appearance so important in a Japanese meal.
All-American slabs of beef, on the other hand...well, here it's just like you find at Sakurai's previous haunts, crimson strips of meat webbed with stark fat are set across a hot stone pad and left to sizzle. It's only for a moment, but in that brief span rich fat seeps into timid fibers of beef. After a quick turn, the waitress—they do all the work for you—swipes each small piece through soy and returns it to the stone. This burns a sweet, malty patina onto some of the beefiest slices of red meat.
Smoking, popping—it's about the only real break from Tei An's overwhelming reserve. Although it looks from the valet stand like a corporate entryway, the space inside is urbane and sophisticated and probably reeks of feng shui, if I cared to look up the conventions of feng shui, which I don't. (Oh, you say it's Chinese? Thought it was Californian.) Let's just say it's an open, flowing area, smartly attired in concrete and wood. Conversation from the bar wafts clearly through the room. So be forewarned: mouth off about, oh, editors and you could find your stuff moved to the intern's cubicle. More judicious diners lean in and converse quietly. They don't brazenly compare the restaurant's omelet and fruit-stuffed caipirinha to the perfect brunch.
Oh, but the "Iichiko" caipirinha is nothing like the brutish, summertime, mind-numbing concoction found at Dallas happy hours. Instead, it's loaded with fresh fruit, fruit drenched in alcohol and just plain alcohol—a healthy means to an end. It's probably the reason one of us ended up playing with a gizmo in the bathroom that turns clear glass into gray frost.
Like I said, it's a real soba house—for the most part. Trouble occurs only in those moments when they break from tradition...or when Texans mess with artifacts of the Far East.
1722 Routh St. (One Arts Plaza), 214-220-2828. Open 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 5:30-10:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 5:30-10:30 p.m. Saturday. $$$